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Forest Park volleyball's run ends in state semifinal

COLLEGE PARK — The Forest Park volleyball team had never reached a state semifinal entering Monday night's matchup against Smithsburg, so Foresters coach Jermaine Dunn wanted his players to enjoy the moment.

"We've come a long way," Dunn said. "We've had some struggles, but we've fought through it."

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They didn't have an answer for the Leopards' dominant offense, though. Smithsburg (18-1) beat the Foresters, 25-2, 25-4, 25-11, at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum to advance to the 1A state championship, halting Forest Park's memorable playoff run.

Forest Park (8-8) beat 2013 state semifinalists Benjamin Franklin in five sets to win the South region and earn a spot in this year's state tournament. The Foresters' victory marked a historic moment for the program that set up the semifinal game against a Smithsburg team that has won four of the last five state titles.

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"They looked like volleyball is life to them," Dunn said. "I know they won a couple of state championships, and I see why.

"They looked like a college team. We haven't played any competition like Smithsburg before. That's a credit to their coaching staff and their great athletes on the team."

The Leopards controlled the match from the outset, scoring the game's first 19 points before the run ended with a service error. Forest Park struggled to return serves throughout the match, as Smithsburg finished with 33 aces. The Leopards went on a similar run to win the second set, scoring 19 of the final 20 points. During a timeout early in the third set, Dunn focused on getting the players to relax.

"Sometimes when I call a timeout it's not even about strategy," Dunn said. "[It's about] just getting their minds clear and getting them relaxed because sports are basically mental."

Facing a 9-2 deficit in the third set, the Foresters went on a six-point run that made it 9-8. Senior outside hitter Amore' Brown had four aces during that span and senior defensive specialist Tyshawna Fisher had the team's only kill.

It was the closest Forest Park got to tying the score, however, and Smithsburg cruised during the remainder of the third set to seal the match.

"It felt good that I got some points with my serves, but I also could've [played] better," Brown said. "But personally, I feel great about what I did today."

With the Foresters' memorable playoff run cut short, Fisher will get to commit more time to the basketball team, which recently began practices. Still, she and the rest of Forest Park is proud of what the team accomplished this year.

"I'm proud of my team, to be honest, because they made it this far," Fisher said.

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